Has the Labour leadership lost it? Have they forgotten what spend, spend, spend leads to?
What a curious few days it has been as Ed tries his level best to buy off the left, trade union barons who are openly talking about cutting off his money supply and ordinary rather cheesed off Labour activists.
He and his Team seem to be making more pledges to spend our money than you can shake a stick at and we are still a good 18 months away from the General Election.
Clearly he is under pressure and is under performing. His supporters within Labour are nervous and all the recent spending pledges are really to buy of Labour movement people who have been looking at him with a very critical eye.
Compare this with relatively recent Labour Party pledges to stick to Coalition spending programmes! It’s one hell of a switch but Ed knows that if his troops will not fight for him then all is lost; they have to be bought off with some good old socialist tax and spend policies.
And what about the wonderful view that folks earning £60,000 per year are not rich; what planet are Labour living on?
But whatever Ed does he will always have to come back to the fact that a potential Labour Government promising to spend what we have not got, borrow we can’t afford and tax us to death will not get elected.
History is clearly weighing heavy upon Ed and it has made him, not surprisingly, quite indecisive about action over Syria.
One day he was clearly indicating that he supported action to deal with the appalling chemical weapons use by the Syrian regime on its own people, the next day he was all for stopping plans deal with Syria.
But why was he so unsure? Iraq of course, where Labour got itself into an illegal war with Conservative support. However, you would think that was not the reason for his hopping from one foot to the other by things he said. Yet, if you listened to him carefully, and thought back he was clearly rehearsing the very same type of concerns that we Lib Dems had over the war in Iraq.
Whether Parliament made the right decision last week is a tough call but, on balance, it probably made the wrong one as turning your back on the use of chemical weapons is surely not going to do anything but encourage Syria and indeed other dictators across the world to think they can get away with such terrible crimes against humanity. In other words the decision has probably made it more likely that chemical weapons will be used again but against whom and when is less clear.
Under performing and not getting our message across were phrases used by the old bruiser to describe his own Party Leadership this week. Does he have point?
Well of course he is right and it goes right back to the one great truth told about the British economy in recent times. Whilst it was probably done in jest it was oh so right – ‘there’s no money left’ was the parting note to his successor left by Labour’s former Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne after Labour lost power at the last election. Liam Byrne was of course right too.
What happened next set the Labour Party up for the problems they have now; little if any credibility when it comes to the economy. Indeed, they set themselves up (without any help from opposition parties) by pretending that the cuts were not necessary, that they had no responsibility for what had happened to the economy, that savings need not be made, championing every cause where savings had to be made and generally trying to give the impression of ‘recession what recession?’.
Such nonsense appealed to Labour’s core vote, to public sector workers who were and still are feeling the pinch and to socialists who want a common ownership economy. BUT no one else was listening as they knew Labour’s economic head in the sand was just that.
Labour kept getting away with it because the economy was still bumping along the bottom and that further cuts were still to be made (they will probably still have to be made long after the next election), yet Miliband and Balls knew they would have to significantly change direction and appeal to the middle ground if they were to stand any chance at the 2015 election.
So the brakes went on and there was big talk about Labour accepting the Coalitions cuts, not reversing them etc. etc. Trouble was and still is that many Labour MP’s, councillors and activists are still on the old tune; they do not like the new one so they do not sing it.
And thereby Labour ends up not getting its message across and performs poorly; no wonder when it is singing from two different hymn sheets! So Prescott is right and the loss of a couple of council seats to the Lib Dems in his own Hull back yard (Hessell to be accurate) last week will not have done much for this sense of humour either.
To me as long-term trade unionist there was a certain inevitability to this very public war between Labour and its biggest trade union backer. It goes back to comments I have made before about the trade union movement not knowing how to respond effectively to austerity and the fact that with the next election being only a couple of years away Labour is starting to reposition itself to the right.
Trade union barons are almost always on the hard left these days and they thought that having put Ed Miliband in as Labour Leader he needed more hard left Labour Parliamentary candidates in place to keep him honest with them. Ed, of course, knows that left wing views don’t win British general elections as Tony Blair showed with his Christian/Social Democrat approach.
The trade union movement has spent generations trying to grasp the Labour Party and keep it where it wants it to be as an openly common ownership socialist party. When Labour is in opposition they always start off saying things that fit with the left but as each general election approaches they shunt over to a more right wing agenda. The trouble is that both the trade union movement and Labour Party know this dance around happens on a regular cycle but each thinks they will win next time. The trade unions are, of course, the ones who are always disappointed.
Talking of Unite, they may have had influences in/over the Sefton Central Labour Party if leaks from within this troubled constituency Labour Party are to be believed. Maybe Labour would care to enlarge on the extent of Unite’s influence in this constituency?
Well the answer is both yes and no.
Clegg and Cameron were right to bring the Coalition Government together, of that I have no doubt despite my lifelong opposition to Conservatism. They were right because:-
* the UK was teetering on the brink of economic collapse
* a world recession was hitting hard
* we had been spending and borrowing beyond our means for far too long
* Labour had not only run out of steam they were responsible in no small measure for the state we were and presently still are in.
But don’t times change! Cameron, a slightly pinko Tory, held all before him those 3 heady years ago and his Euro nutters were firmly back in the in their boxes well bound and gagged. Now they are very much out of their boxes running around like headless chickens causing Cameron all kinds of difficulties and UKIP all kinds of joy. That means the strains are clearly showing in the Coalition as Clegg, a chap on the right of the Lib Dems, can’t allow an ever more rightwing Tory Party to do the daft things they seemingly want to do. Like lemmings running for the cliff the Tories have been utterly panicked by UKIP and now half of Cameron’s troops are marching to UKIP’s tune. It can only get worse and we are two years away from an election!
So Clegg is desperately trying to keep the Coalition on track whilst Cameron has to deal with and pander to his ever more desperate Party. That their relationship must be strained there can be little doubt.
But what’s all this talk about Clegg and Miliband becoming good buddies (you can’t repeat that though); does it hold any water?
Well it might or might not. If you look at from the historical perspective you must say that the Lib Dems and Labour have more in common than the Lib Dems and Tories. However, as always happens under Labour, the economy goes to pot and it did so in a spectacular way during the Blair and Brown years. How can you work with a political party that helped bring financial disaster upon us, has failed to seriously acknowledge its failings or address the consequences and which has form from just about every previous Labour administration for failing on the economy?
As my daughter Jen often says – Every Labour government ends in financial failure, every Tory one ends in social failure. There are no right and wrong answers over say a 5 year governmental term because of events. Whom you could work with one year you could not work with the next. How on earth Clegg balances it all out and keeps his sanity I have no idea but when we have recovered from the economic mess, in say 10 years or so, I suspect that we may have him to thank for working with impossible people to do the possible.